American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) is great, but for 2016, their Green Card isn’t the best choice. Here’s why.
Why a charge card?
Unlike a credit card, the balance on a charge card is paid in full each month… so you don’t have to worry about interest rate hikes and other non-sense. Many like the fact that since the entire balance will be due, it helps them resist the temptation of overspending. However even the fiscally responsible prefer them too, since charge cards offer unique benefits you can’t always get with a credit card. But whatever your motive, the AmEx Green Card isn’t the best choice when you compare it to the Gold or the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, or to similarly priced cards from other issuers. This holds true even if it’s your first AmEx, because we hear from plenty of first timers who get approved for the Gold, too.
2016 American Express Green Card Review
In the U.S., American Express is the only major issuer that currently offers charge cards. Their first card was launched in 1958, and this was eventually named the American Express Green Card. In ’66 they issued the Gold Card and in ’84 the Platinum Card. Let’s take a look at what the Green does and doesn’t offer…
Annual Fee: $95, currently (as of Dec. 2016) waived the first year.
Rewards: The card participates in the Membership Rewards program, which is the program tied to all AmEx’s charge cards:
- 1x points on regular spending
- 2x on travel booked through the AmEx travel website
The Membership Rewards program has a lot of different redemption options but by far the most enticing is the ability to convert your points to airline frequent flier miles and hotel loyalty points.
American Express has more than a dozen airlines (and a few hotel chains) in its transfer program. But the most impressive part is that you almost always get 1 mile per point when you convert. You get this with all AmEx charge cards, not just the Green Card.
Important Note: Many other cards on the the market today advertise “miles” but all they are really giving you is cash back to spend on travel, because each mile only equals $0.01 worth of travel. However with AmEx you are actually converting your points to real miles on airline frequent flyer programs such as Delta, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and others. This can be a much better deal, since the dollar value you get through those frequent flyer programs can sometimes be as high as two or three cents per mile (for example instead of paying $500 cash for a roundtrip ticket, you may be able to get it for just 25,000 miles through the airline’s mile program. That’s $0.02 per mile which is double the value).
This card does offer some great benefits. So it’s not that the benefits are lacking, rather it’s just that some of AmEx’s other charge cards give you way more for your money (which we will discuss in a moment). First, let’s take a look at some of the American Express Green Card benefits:
Purchase Protection Benefit: We all know what it’s like to buy something and then accidentally break it soon after. What this free benefit does is protect all eligible purchases made with the American Express Green Card for the first ninety days. During that time, if these item(s) are stolen or accidentally damaged, AmEx will repair or reimburse them for you, up to a thousand dollars per claim.
Extended Warranty Benefit: This is an extremely useful benefit which can also save you some money from having to buy extended warranties out-of-pocket. Instead, any eligible purchase made with the AmEx Green Card that has an original U.S. manufacturers warranty will be doubled by up to one extra year (during that second year AmEx will cover your losses directly). So let’s say you bought a new monitor that had a 1 year warranty, but it went bad after 1.5 years. Since American Express automatically extends that warranty 1 year, you would simply call them up to take care of it for free.
Travel Benefits:There are a couple convenient travel benefits included. The first one is their emergency assistance hotline; wherever you are in the world, they can arrange for legal, medical, or financial help when away from home. The second benefit is travel accident insurance, which covers the cardmember if accidental death or dismemberment happens while traveling on a plane, ship, train, or bus (the ticket will need to have been purchased with the card to qualify).
So why is the Green Card lackluster?
Simply put, American Express has expanded its product offerings since it first launched the Green card — and the Green just doesn’t compete anymore.
Reason #1: The Premier Rewards Gold has a $195 annual fee, but when, you take the $100 annual airline fee credit, other benefits and far better rewards into account, it may actually be a better deal.
Reason #2: American Express now offers a no-annual-fee credit card (the EveryDay), which also earns Membership Rewards points. In fact, it earns more MR points on your spending than the Green card does.
Reason #3: If the reason you were interested in the Green is because you have a limited credit history and want an AmEx with entry-level credit requirements, you will be happy to learn that according to reviews from customers, American Express has also let them in the door with other products.
You can use a soft-pull card-search tool to see what offers you are pre-qualified for:
Why we gave it 2.5 out of 5 stars
|Rewards-earning rate: This card doesn’t meet our requirements for annual-fee cards (1X on all spending and at least 2X in at least two bonus categories not tied to the issuer).|
|Rewards value: To earn this star, a card must offer at least one redemption option that gives a value of 1 cent per point. The Green card (which is tied to the Membership Rewards program) fulfills this with its gift card and travel-portal redemptions. You can also transfer to partner travel programs, where your points can be worth more than 1 cent each.|
|Unique perks: The Green card is short on perks that cards of equivalent annual fees offer, but does provide free FICO scores.|
|Fair annual fee: The Green card has no perks with monetary value that help justify the $95 annual fee.|
|Bonus opportunities: The Green card has an advertised sign-up bonus and is tied to Amex offers, a bonus-shopping program.|
The Green card’s rating was based on our standards for “Flexible rewards programs,” as it’s tied to the Membership Rewards Program.
While the value of the points it earns, as well as its bonus opportunities, earned it stars, the card was penalized for having relatively few benefits to justify a $95 annual fee.